Burnside: Good day, my friend. So, did we start to see the loosening of the trade logjam Thursday, with Dominic Moore being dealt from Tampa to San Jose and the Lightning publicly acknowledging they’ve asked defenseman Pavel Kubina to provide them with a list of teams to which he would agree to be traded? The Flyers at least got some of the defensive help they were looking for by adding Nicklas Grossman, who didn’t fit into Dallas’ long-term plans.
Tampa beat San Jose 6-5 in overtime Thursday night (Moore did not dress for either team, but he didn’t have far to go to join his new mates), while the Dallas Stars defeated Calgary 3-2 in overtime to keep their playoff hopes alive. Grossman didn’t play for the Flyers, who crushed Buffalo 7-2 after Buffalo took a 2-0 lead.
These are the days when reality starts to set in for teams like the Sabres, who are 10 points back of eighth-place Toronto and in 14th place in the conference. Time for GM Darcy Regier to get busy trying to unload some dead wood from one of the most disappointing teams in the NHL. On Friday night, the Sabres will host Montreal, another team that has to bite the bullet and realize the playoffs are out of reach. The Habs are eight points out of eighth place and will need to find a place for Hal Gill and perhaps Andrei Kostitsyn, who has fallen out of favor (again?) with the coaching staff in Montreal.
LeBrun: In addition to Gill and Kostitsyn, forward Travis Moen and defenseman Chris Campoli are slated for unrestricted free agency on July 1, and the Habs have not approached any of their agents regarding an extension at this point. So they’re likely all gone, or at least most of the four players. In other words, rental players. Gill and Moen are garnering the most attention based on the conversations I’ve had with other teams. The Canadiens have actually played some decent hockey over the past month, but they waited too long to rescue their bizarre season.
Just like the Lightning did. When I spoke with Tampa GM Steve Yzerman about a week and a half ago, he was true to his word. He hoped his team would get on a run, but he said the next 7-10 days would determine his plan before the trade deadline. The team didn’t deliver, and Moore is gone and Kubina is on his way out -- both UFAs on July 1. Moore’s agent, Larry Kelly, did have some talks about an extension with Yzerman over the past few weeks, but they never were able to bridge the gap. So Moore was dealt yet again -- joining his ninth team since the lockout. This is an excellent pickup by Sharks GM Doug Wilson. Moore is a versatile player and has shown his moxie over the past two playoff runs, with Montreal in 2010 and Tampa last spring. As for Kubina, agent Petr Svoboda (yes, the former player) told me Thursday night that he and Kubina had yet to come up with their list of five teams for Yzerman. Svoboda said they had seven days to do so but likely wouldn’t take that long. Svoboda also said he would be talking with Yzerman on Friday.
Burnside: Let’s hope for everyone’s sake Svoboda doesn’t turn the Kubina situation into the gong show that preceded his client Jaromir Jagr’s signing in Philadelphia in the offseason.
But let’s talk Flyers. You have to imagine that given the relatively small amount given up for Grossman (a second-round pick in 2012 and a third-round pick in 2013, both of which were acquired from other teams in previous deals), you have to think that GM Paul Holmgren will be looking for another defensive piece. I still remember Vancouver GM Mike Gillis chatting before the finals last year and describing how his main goal was to stockpile as many able-bodied defensemen as he could before the playoffs, because it’s a war of attrition and you can never have enough depth on the blue line.
Since captain Chris Pronger is out for the season due to concussion issues, I assume Holmgren will be looking to get even deeper along his blue line. Of course, he’s not alone. Boston will be looking to do the same, as will the New York Rangers. Which brings me to Kubina. He’s not the player he was when he won a Cup with Tampa in 2004, and he’s not even the player he was a couple of years ago when he was an underappreciated part of a mediocre team in Atlanta. But you have to think his connection to New York coach John Tortorella from the Tampa days may suggest some interest from the Eastern Conference’s top team (a team which, by the by, lost 4-2 to the struggling Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night, bringing to an end the Hawks’ nine-game winless streak). Thoughts?
LeBrun: A Flyers source suggested Thursday night that if they can add another defenseman, they would. But no team needs a blueliner more than the Blackhawks, and it hasn’t been from a lack of trying on the part of GM Stan Bowman. He’s been working the phones for a few months but has yet to find the fit. A source told me that the Hawks had inquired about Grossman, but I'm not sure how serious they were about him.
As I said earlier, Gill will help a team this spring. His Cup-winning experience and penalty-killing acumen make him a terrific pickup, in my mind. Hurricanes defensemen Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek are both slated to be UFAs on July 1, and Carolina will likely move both players. Toronto would move Luke Schenn only in the right deal, one that gets them the top-six forward they’ve been looking for.
And of course the biggest name of all, when it comes to defensemen on the trade market, is Los Angeles' Jack Johnson. A few team executives told me this week he’s in play, but only for the type of deal that hands the Kings the top-line forward they’ve been craving. The Phoenix Coyotes shut out the Kings 1-0 at home Thursday night, and I have to imagine Kings GM Dean Lombardi will be even more determined in his efforts to land Rick Nash. Jeff Carter and Ales Hemsky are other possibilities. The Kings struggle to score and must make the playoffs. Lots of pressure there.
Burnside: As you know, I wasn’t a fan of the Darryl Sutter hire when Lombardi dismissed Terry Murray, and the team has continued to struggle offensively after a spasm of productivity and, not surprisingly, has slowly slid down the standings. That’s what happens when you’re dead last in goals scored per game and 22nd on the power play. There is more than a little impatience in Los Angeles with the Kings’ plans for building a contender. The fans have been surprisingly understanding, but if the Kings miss the playoffs, that would be a monster blow for the franchise, and I have to assume it would signal dramatic change from the top on down. Right now, the Kings are in eighth place after their loss to Phoenix, and Calgary is just two points back after picking up a point in an overtime loss to Dallas. Dallas, by the way, is just four points back of the Kings with a game in hand.
I must admit I still don’t get the willingness to part with Johnson, for some of the reasons outlined above. No matter how much you need offense, it’s nigh on impossible to replace a young, puck-moving defenseman the likes of Johnson. I guess it’s a case of high-risk, high-reward for Lombardi. Either way, the Kings will be a team to keep an eye on in the coming days.
So, will the Red Wings keep winning at home on Friday, or will the Nashville Predators end Detroit’s historic home streak? My guess is the Preds prevail. Of course, having just been in Nashville for a couple of days, that may just be residual Stockholm Syndrome.
LeBrun: I predict Red Wings 3, Preds 2, in a 15-round shootout. Of course, I should be cheering for Nashville since I have Pekka Rinne on my fantasy team and currently lead our Media Hacks Hockey Pool standings. I see your team is in eighth place this morning in our 12-team fantasy league. Better luck next year, Scotty. And try to enjoy your weekend despite what I just said.